After you get shot is the most important moment in a gunfight

Many people go to extreme lengths to avoid trouble and hardships in life.  I understand their motivation. No one enjoys suffering (unless there’s something seriously wrong with you).  But I often wonder how frustrating life must be for someone who devotes so much energy to attempting to control life to avoid hardships, only to face difficulties that are out of all human control.  

Virtually all my training in the US Army had an aspect of personal safety to it.  Because war is a deadly enterprise, every well-trained warrior knows fifty ways to keep themselves alive.  The best training always includes an aspect of personal security, while also perfecting defeating the enemy. 

However, any experienced warrior also knows that the “enemy gets a vote.”  Meaning I have no control over an enemy bullet. 

Early in my career in Special Operations, I had to learn how to control my reaction to enemy fire. I trained extensively on accomplishing my mission, no matter how accurate or intense the enemy fire. It’s entirely contrary to human nature to pursue a goal when you know you might get killed before you accomplish it.

This type of training separates the elite warriors from the rest of the military.

I was honored to serve with some amazing warriors who shared this uncommon commitment to accomplishing the mission despite the deadly dangers.  However, no warrior stands above Brad Paulsen!  He embodied the famous Epictetus quote, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” 

I’ve reflected a lot on Brad’s actions over the years.  In my Unbeatable Podcast interview with Brad, I was reminded of his courage in the face of what we both believed was certain death.  To this day, he stands out in my mind as the single most courageous man I’ve ever seen in battle.

The basis for Brad’s courage can be summarized in 3 steps.  These steps will also carry you through your greatest fears and significant challenges.

How you perceive it

It is what it is- Not more than it is- And not less than it is, was my standard reminder that I focused on during great difficulties. The actions that you are facing are always significant. However, how you perceive those actions is far more critical. There are countless examples where two identical people face the same set of circumstances, but they view it differently.

If you want to be unbeatable like Brad Paulsen, you must learn to assimilate the events you’re going through without becoming emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually overwhelmed by the circumstances. The first step in overcoming a tragedy is reminding yourself not to stress over events out of your control. How you perceive your circumstances might be as deadly as the actual circumstances themselves!

How you react to it

After you put things into proper perspective by realistically viewing your circumstances, the next step is to focus on your reaction to the events. In a firefight during a combat engagement, I have no control over what the enemy does to me. However, I have total control over how I respond to what the enemy does.

Hope doesn’t make an enemy bullet less deadly.  More than a few warriors lost their lives, hoping their circumstances would improve. Don’t go to sleep embarrassed or ashamed of what the events sent your way in life. However, you… and only you… must own your reaction to those circumstances.

How you grow from it

Learning and growing from your experiences is essential to overcoming difficulties. After all, who in their right mind would want to go through problems if they couldn’t shape and develop you in the future?

Incredible personal growth comes from correctly perceiving your circumstances and reacting accordingly.

Every event in your life can shape you for the future.  The pleasant events in your past should direct the course of your future just as much as the bad events of your life.  Events in your history are the classroom that prepares you for more significant challenges and success in the future.  By allowing tragic events to teach you how to respond in the future, you also can become Unbeatable like Brad Paulsen.

The most important minute of a gunfight is what you do right after you get shot. It’s not about what happens to you.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad the circumstances are.  It doesn’t matter how dangerous the situation is or how deadly the enemy is.  What matters most is how you react to it!  Tomorrow, rather than trying to avoid hardships, focus on what you can learn from them and how they can make you unbeatable in the future.

Listen to my whole interview with Brad where he describes his experiences of getting shot at in Somalia.

Further reading

It’s not the fight that matters

The strongest force on the battlefield is always motivated by love just like the toughest opponent in a fight, will always give their best out of...

Why injustice is your fight

It's time for you to stand up and speak out against discrimination. If not, what prevents others from doing it to you in the future?